Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Sticks and Stones and Words, O My!

When I was young I was Tommy.  To become more adult I declared that no longer would I be Tommy, but Tom.  The adult.  The strong.  Tom was a name that didn’t do kid stuff, mostly, and he could go anywhere and do anything without holding his mother’s hand too! In one of my first cases with CRA a teacher introduced me to a student as Mr. Tom.  “This is Mr. Tom, he’s here to help and talk with you.” In comparison with Mr. Tom, Tom seems so young.  Tom was bold and strong, but Mr. Tom is wise and caring.

Names are a funny thing and I mean that other sort of funny: tricky, elusive.  That’s probably why we have them.  Maybe we have names because there is no other way to capture people.  Maybe our particularly individuality and incredible nature for change requires us to have our own stamp, our own verbal sign.  The names we choose and the names we give can have some serious consequences and impacts.

Youth we work with sometimes deny the effects other peoples words have on them and with the next breath say they aren’t going to stand while people talk.  “It don’t bother me at all but I can’t let people talk about me.”  This strange inconsistency pervades among adults as well.  We know that the people we strive to be don’t make real the names other people call us.  Only sticks and stones can break our bones right? But the person we actually are is not going to let someone else name us wrong because in reality the words do hurt us.  Young and old, we know that while we should be bigger people, its very hard to let those names other people are using not rile us. What sits at the core of this duality is hurt and pain of course.

Names do matter and while words can’t break bones they can break hearts and spirits.  We need to teach our youth and ourselves to be careful.  We all must take care not only with the words we choose, but also to build up a name in ourselves that we believe in, even against others peoples’.

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For the comic version of this blogpost: http://xkcd.com/1216/

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This entry was posted on December 17, 2014 by in VISTA Field Reports.

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